Tuesday, October 2, 2012

"Control System" Album Review

Nobody's Chattel

By Rampage

"They will be our chattel, that means slaves—it means collateral. You're secured as collateral." - Bohemian Grove

The closing words of the song "Bohemian Grove" send a chilling message of enslaved citizens who are being controlled by a higher power. This is the album's main allegory and as "Terrorist Threats" repeats this message, ("I just wanna be free/I ain't tryna be nobody's chattel") it is clear that Ab-Soul is not interested in music to make profit, but rather to spread his life story and make prophecies.

West Coast conglomerate Black Hippy features some of raps most promising artists. With Kendrick Lamar's breakthrough album Section.80 and Schoolboy Q's album Habits and Contradictions it was time for Ab-Soul to step into the spotlight with a single work which could establish him as an artist. Control System distinguishes his role.

There's a lot to like about Ab-Soul. For one, he can hold his own on tracks with Kendrick Lamar, he's not afraid to experiment with his music and vocal range with other singers (Jhene Aiko & the late Alori Joh) and he has many styles which make Control System a fresh independent release resulting from an artist with full "control" of his art.

The album's high points come from his ferocious raps stemming from his disdain against the government's control of the people (Terrorist Threats), confidently bragging about why he is one of the best in the game (Track Two, Illuminate), and his vivid storytelling anthems (Bohemian Grove). His versatility as an artist is seen with different rhyme schemes, flows and homophones "I wrote like Edgar Allan, I was po' like Edgar Allan" (Pineal Gland).

Many of the tracks I've mentioned come from the first half of the album and that's when the momentum is at it's highest point. When "Double Standards" comes around—a social study on the stigma of cheating between men and women—it isn't Lupe Fiasco's Lasers bad but it seems out of place given the tone of the album.

"SOPA" is the lowest point of Control System, apparently being an opportunity for Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul to let off steam backed by an annoying bass heavy beat and ignorant lines about nothing. Even "Lust Demons" veers into pop single territory and "Beautiful Death" has an annoying hook and guest verse weighing down it's interesting topic.

The slower songs do not always handicap the album though. Lightly packed bars sung in tracks like "Empathy" and "A Rebellion" switch up the pace as he displays his individual nature and his perspective on relationships. Also the powerful "Book of Soul" shows the dichotomy of a rap artist who does not fear criticism, biological obstacles, or the passing of a close friend.

After having gone to a show where Ab-Soul and Kenrick both performed, Ab-Soul can truly hold his own on the mic despite his status as an underdog. His onstage presence is embodied in Control System

I believe this album is a great start in showing his potential and if the 17-track offering was a few songs shorter and more cohesive in style it could have had more impact. That being said, it still remains one of my favorite releases of 2012.

My Rating:

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